I had the good fortune to run into an interesting family, Lee and Judy Riley of Harrisburg PA, at the Russian River 1000 Trails RV Park, and they shared with me their experiences of traveling with a Fleetwood Southwind 36′ Slide Out RV. Which is a full sized Class A rv.) And, even more interesting, travelling with Nicky, their Royal Poodle. (Visit their blog: TravelsWithNicky) Lee and Judy have been travelling and rving with a variety of rvs over the years, and have quite a bit of experience buying and trading in rvs. They prefer trading in their older rv rather than selling it themselves. In 2006 they purchased a 2003 Fleetwood Southwind 36′ Slide out rv, and traded in their fifth wheel at the same time. They purchased their Fleetwood Southwind Slide Out Rv from Lazydays RV SuperCenter in Florida. (Quite possibly the largest rv dealer in the US, or anywhere for that matter.) I asked them what I usually ask folks that own an rv: If you had it to do all over again, what would you have done differently, and do you wish you had bought something else instead? Lee and Judy were happy with their purchase, and shared their experiences buying an rv, with a few suggestions for other prospective buyers to keep in mind when buying their new (or used) rv.
Considerations when buying an rv:
- Consider what your driving experience will be like. An rv is much easier to handle on the road and setting up than a fifth wheel camper.
- Know what your budget is ahead of time when shopping for an rv. When you visit an rv lot, always walk away from your first visit – don’t make an emotional decision when buying your rv.
- Carefully make your list of desired features in your new rv. If there’s something on your list that’s important to you, don’t settle for less. Don’t make the mistake of thinking; “It’s not that bad, we’ll get used to it.” Don’t compromise when you shouldn’t. You don’t get used to “it”, it just leads to dissatisfaction down the road.
When Judy and Lee went shopping for their new RV, they selected a 2003 36′ Southwind Fleetwood slide out motorhome. This rv has three slide outs, one slide out in the kitchen, one slide out in the living room, and one slide out in the bedroom. The slide outs are electric. They found almost everything they were looking for in the Southwind 36′ Fleetwood slide out rv, and here are the items that were important to them. (And you might consider these items when you shop for a new motorhome or camper also!)
- Slide campers give you more space for living quarters and storage, so consider a slide out rv.
- Given the choice over electric slide outs or hydraulic slideouts, Lee would prefer hydraulic slide outs, they’re smoother. Their Southwind Fleetwood rv has electric slide outs, which work well, but Lee would have preferred hydraulic slide outs.
- Their Southwind Fleetwood has a Ford V10 Gas engine, which gets about 7mpg. Their friend bought essentially the same identical motorhome, the one difference being the engine. They got their rv with a Chevy 454 engine, which gets about 9mpg, and has better torque on the hills in the mountains. So, Lee’s recommendation – if you have a choice go with the Chevy over the Ford engine.
- Tires are important. The 22″ wheels are better than the 19″ wheels. Check the date on the tires. If they’re approaching 5 years, regardless of tread, have the dealer put new tires on. It’s tire rot, not tread wear that is a major problem. Tires only last about 7 years, and if the motorhome has been sitting unused for awhile, rot may be an issue, and you’re not really going to see that on a visual inspection. At $250. to $300. per tire, better be safe than sorry – get the new tires before you sign the deal!
- Some of the things to check when you’re comparing slide out campers – what is the floor plan? Do you prefer your bathroom separate from your bedroom? Lee and Judy have a floorplan where the shower is in a separate room from the toilet and sink, and everything is separate from the bedroom. This is a much better setup for two people, they can both use some of the facilities at the same time.
- Look into the drawers to check that they’re full depth. Some slide campers have half depth drawers. With rvs, storage is critical.
- Judy stressed the importance for them of having clearance around three sides of the bed. She absolutely did not want a bed flush with the wall, this was not negotiable. She said you think you can get used to it and it won’t be a problem, but it really gets old having to crawl around trying to get out of bed at night!
- The refrigerator size is important, and this is another feature that is non-negotiable for Judy – don’t settle for the little refrigerator! Theirs is a Norcold, and it’s beautiful. There will be times when you’re dry camping, and the small size refrigerator just won’t do!
- Judy’s rv has a very nice built in washer/dryer combo, which is a plus. Their slide out rv didn’t come with the built in washer/dryer, but there was a space that was plumbed for it. They were able to locate the exact model they needed for only $100. and Lee installed it. Judy loves it for washing small loads, but uses her custom built (by Lee!) clothes line instead of the dryer.
- If the awnings need updating but the hardware for the awnings is still good, try talking to your local upholstery shop that works on boats. Canvas is canvas, and Lee recently saved over $100. by having new awnings made rather than purchasiing them from a camping supply supplier that required the purchase of new hardware with new awnings.
Since Lee and Judy have purchased and traded in so many campers, fifth wheels over the years, I asked them how they go about determining the blue book value of a camper. Do they use Kelly Blue Book or Nada Guides for checking the blue book value of an rv? Or have they ever looked at the completed listings on eBay to check selling prices and blue book value of a camper? They don’t! They had a suggestion for me that makes so much sense, especially in today’s unusual economic times. They check with their bank, to see what amount the bank would be willing to loan. (Even if they’re paying cash.) They said that when they ask the bank to determine the blue book value of the camper, they think the bank is actually quoting the wholesale bluebook, not the retail bluebook. This makes sense when you consider that the bank may become the owner of a number of rvs down the road if the owners are unable to keep up the payments, and it’s in the bank’s interest to loan the lowest amount possible in case they need to take over ownership. So Lee and Judy recommend talking to a bank (or several) about the bluebook value of the rv before purchasing it. And be involved in the process of establishing the blue book value of the camper – carefully consider whether the dealer is stating a current market value for the bank evaluation.
Thanks Judy and Lee for allowing me to interview you, and for all your wonderful suggestions on how to get the slide camper of your dreams!
Oh, and I’ll have to check out your parting comment that the next rv you buy will be a Bounder 35E! We’ll save that for next time we meet – looking forward to catching up with you and Nicky at Rancho Oso sometime in the future!